Music

A hopeful look on depression—Song analysis of The Killers: “Rut”

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By Gilian Prado

Music Journalist

The Killers’ song, “Rut”, is starkly different from other tracks in their discography; the opening line seems to be a woman’s voice pitched up with autotune, suggesting that it’s a conversation that is occurring. Brandon Flowers then responds with the line:

“Can’t keep my mind off of every little wrong

I see the mouths are open but I can’t hear the song

I’ve done my best to fill ’em

But the cracks are starting to spread”

While this is occurring, an inspirational-sounding piano melody is playing as if it was a coming-of-age film score; this juxtaposes the melancholic lyrics being sung by Flowers.  When Flowers refers to the open mouths and lack of song, he is using this as a metaphor for his struggle to get out of the rut; the mouth is open, meaning that an attempt is being made. However, the lack of song signifies that their attempt remains unsuccessful and only an attempt to get out of this rut. The line regarding the cracks creates visual imagery of the figurative brokenness Flowers feels as a result of his many unsuccessful attempts to get out of this rut, yet the instrumental tone of the song still remains hopeful. Flowers then goes on to sing

“But don’t give up on me

‘Cause I’m just in a rut

I’m climbing but the walls keep stacking up”

Now we see a change in tone lyrically before Flowers was feeling defeated. Now, he is asking to not be given up on. The metaphor for the difficulty of trying to escape the rut changes from being something that can’t be fixed, i.e. the metaphorical lack of voice to something that can be more easily fixed like climbing; this is something he can physically do. Yes, the walls are piling up, but the intent to climb and do something is there, as opposed to the more passive reaction of just doing nothing with the lost voice. At this point, the piano melody is replaced by an upbeat synthesizer. This newfound hopeful optimism is short-lived with the next line being:

“I can’t keep pretending this next stop isn’t mine

The truth is on the table, and someone’s gotta sign”

Flowers acknowledges that deep down he’s felt that he’s bound to arrive at a destination rut.

“I’ve done my best defending

But the punches are starting to land”

Now, we see that he is no longer feeling as capable of handling the challenge of escaping the rut; then he’s feeling the totality of fighting off this depression.

“I’m sliding into something

You won’t understand”

These are textbook lines people with depression often say, further solidifying that the rut is not a physical place but a state of mind.

Flowers then goes on to repeat:

“Don’t give up on me

‘Cause I’m just in a rut

I’m climbing but the walls keep stacking up”

In fact, he repeats it twice. He is now optimistic again. This pendulum swing from optimism about escaping the rut to pessimism is a perfect representation of how people who struggle with depression can relapse and recover; depression is often cyclical.

“So I’m handing you a memory

I hope you understand

That steadily reminds you

Of who I really am”

At this point, Flowers’ voice is now in falsetto as he sings those lines, which can only be described as a hopeful pleading. Flowers is very aware of his struggles, and because of it, he wants to be remembered kindly in this person’s mind, so he hand picks a memory for them to have when they think of flowers.

“This city’s always breathing

I wish that it would die

The king rags and the bachelors

The fever for the velvet rope

The money from my mother’s men

I’m not like her, you’re not like them”

Flowers then goes on to talk about the vices in a city; this is especially relevant considering he’s from Las Vegas. He talks of these vices and states that it’s the reason he wants the city to sleep. Flowers then differentiates himself and the person he’s singing to from the others who partake in vices from the city. At this point, the song crescendos, and a synth riff increases rapidly in tempo, creating this hopeful build-up. Flowers is singing the lines, “I’ll climb and climb,” over and over, followed by the lines of “don’t you give up on me” repeatedly. Flowers has finally achieved an unwavering sense of faith in himself; he no longer toils with the idea of giving up. The repetition is a symbol of his new mindset of continually fighting. Musically, the synth is still driving the tempo and intensity, and we have different layered vocals creating a sonic representation of this new hopeful faith he’s found in himself.

Featured Image is from TheKillers.com.

Written by: Preethi Mangadu

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